After today, Congress Parkway will now be known as Ida B. Wells Drive. This dedication marks the first downtown street to be named after an African American woman.
Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist, civil rights activist, and suffragist. She was also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as several other national organizations. In the 1890s, she investigated and exposed instances of white mob violence and lynching in the South. Her work against lynching led to the destruction of her newspaper office, and she eventually moved to Chicago to escape the violence. Wells lived in Chicago for the last 35 years of her life. Here she raised her family and focused on urban reform in the city in the late 19th and early 20th century.
This street dedication honors her life of activism and her dedication to preserving the civil rights of African Americans.
Before the dedication of Ida B. Wells Drive, the only monument to the civil rights leader were the Ida B. Wells Homes, a housing project in Bronzeville. Sadly, they were demolished starting in 2002 by the Chicago Housing Authority. Constructed in 1939, the houses were meant for black families in the South Side. The report by Elizabeth Brackett highlights the plight of those who lost their homes during the demolition and what happened to those squatting in the building.
Elizabeth Brackett was a friend and colleague of Media Burn, and we were deeply saddened by her untimely death. She donated her collection of 86 tapes to the archive in 2015, which you can view here.